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30% of private law cases have been to court before: Cafcass research

Research investigates reasons for cases returning

Research published today by Cafcass shows for the first time the scale of private law cases that come back to court. It looks at why these cases return and distinguishes between those that belong in court and those that might safely benefit from alternative dispute resolution.  

The research found that 30 per cent of the 40,599 private law applications involving Cafcass in 2016-17 had been to court before. The majority returned within two years, and almost a third had been to court at least twice before. One child had been the subject of eleven cases between 2005 and 2017.

One hundred returning cases were explored in detail to look at why they came back to court. Four principal causes were identified: safeguarding concerns raised by parties; high conflict between adults; changes in life circumstances; and the child's wishes and feelings.

The research sets out policy and practice implications of these different types of returning cases, contributing to wider discussions about family justice reform and possible approaches to safely resolve cases outside of court.

Welcoming the research, Cafcass Chief Executive Anthony Douglas said:

"Cafcass data is a valuable resource that helps us build a picture of the complex circumstances bringing private law cases back to court.

"We hope the research will inform sector understanding of the rise in private law applications and help us identify ways to work with children and families in complex cases in a way which brings about a much earlier safe conclusion that is in their best interests."

The findings will contribute to ongoing improvement of Cafcass' response to complex cases, including its new High Conflict Practice Pathway and its Positive Parenting Programme.

To access the research, click here.